Two medicinal electuaries from the Kuchenmaistrey

Anything this expensive has got to be good for you.

4. xxiii. Item a good useful electuary for the stomach and all harmful fumes (boß nebel). Take the root or bearded iris (iris x germanica, schwertelwurtz) and cut it into thin slices. Leave them to steep in red wine eight or ten days in a well-covered glass. Take a maß (measure of capacity, probably 1.08 litres) of honey and melt it in a copper or brass pan over a coal fire. Add the root and the wine you have prepared before to it and let the third part boil away (i.e. reduce it by a third). Then take 4 lot (measure of weight, probably about 16 grammes) of ginger roots that are not searced, one lot of cloves, one lot of nutmeg, two lot of cinnamon bark and half a lot of long pepper all well pounded and let them boil with it a good long while until it thickens into an electuary. And always stir it with a spatula so it does not burn, thus you will have a good electuary.

4. xxiiii. A good electuary for the chest. Take white radish, hyssop, elecampagne, dittany and ginger and pound them to a powder. Mix them with honey into an electuary as one customarily makes electuaries. If you would have it better, add cubebs, cinnamon and mace or other spices (specerey) that are good. You may also take gentian, Venetian ceodary, long pepper, sweet flag, and polypody (steinwurtz) or other good spices (gewurtz) according to what appears to serve to you and stir them together as is written above into an electuary.

Contrary to stereotype, herbalism was not the preserve of rural folk healers, but a discipline of academic medicine widely treated on in literature. These are two recipes that are more at home in the apothecary’s than the cookshop. It is not surprising to find them in a cookbook. Such recipe collections were always compiled with a view to maintaining good health, and their wealthy readers could afford the expensive ingredients, equipment, and skilled labour.

Electuaries (latwergen) are originally a form of medicine, sweetened and thickened in order to be licked up (hence the name). By the fifteenth century, they had developed into a culinary class of sweetened and spiced fruit preserves. These two are closer to the medical roots. The technique is interesting, and if they are cooked long enough they are likely to simply turn into something like boiled sweets.

I will continue posting recipes from the Nuremberg Kuchenmaistrey produced around 1490, but my mode will change. Instead of translating one daily and posting it here, I will try to use what time there is to translate as much as I can and post only some of them here. Once the entire text is done, I will try to get it published either as a book, or online.

The Kuchenmaistrey (mastery of the kitchen) was the earliest printed cookbook in German (and only missed being the earliest printed cookbook in any language by a few years). The book gave rise to a vibrant culture of amended and expanded manuscript copies as well as reprints spanning almost a century. The recipes seem designed to appeal to a wealthy, literate and cosmopolitan clientele.

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